On the latest edition of SmackDown Live, as everyone was expecting Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt to finally turn on each other, the former dedicated himself to the latter all over again. It is a move that delays what everyone assumes is inevitable, but should be considered a genius booking tactic.
Orton vs. Wyatt for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania is still considered to be the WWE’s main objective at this point. It is worth noting that, as Orton said on SmackDown that he refuses to wrestle Wyatt for the title because he’s a devoted follower.
While it does seem strangely out of character for The Viper to allow someone else’s motivations to win the day, it is part of the entire Bray is a cult leader gimmick thing that has been happening for a few years now. Not to mention that a split, the split, can happen in the relatively near future. It’s not as if this means it will fail to happen.
There’s no need to rush it, though. For several reasons.
The most obvious being that ‘Mania is still a wee-bit away. Monday Night Raw still has a Network Special to get through and there are almost two months of SmackDown programming to be had before we hit the granddaddy of the all. Starting this feud in earnest this soon could potentially result in consumers being tired of it by April 2.
We are, truly, viewers with pretty short attention spans.
It also opens the door for several subplots to start taking shape.
After Orton did his “I’m a loyal follower” routine on Tuesday, Daniel Bryan went on Talking Smack to announce a Battle Royal to determine a new number one contender for the WWE Championship. This, only moments after Bray defended his title against both John Cena and AJ Styles in a triple-threat bout — eliminating that pesky “rematch stipulation” that sometimes dictates booking decisions.
The early favorite for this Battle Royal is probably Luke Harper, especially since almost every sign in the world points to the former Wyatt Family member winning.
He’s been feuding with both Orton and Bray, has received a mini-push as of late, and it could help to further increase both Bray and Luke’s over-ness in the WWE Universe. After all, people appear to love the push-and-pull mental dynamic between the two wrestlers.
It could theoretically also help in leading to the Orton-Bray split. Something happens — because stable-fight (!) — between all three men before, during and/or after Luke would be facing Bray for the WWE Championship on a random edition of SmackDown (also, in the process, making SmackDown fun).
If it isn’t Harper who gets the nod to face Bray on a random SmackDown, it elevates someone likely not named Cena or Styles into the main event picture, even if it is only for two or three weeks. Basically, by doing this, the WWE is trying to create another new star (maybe).
This also creates a way for the WWE to continue to rebuild the credibility of Wyatt, who has long suffered from being on the wrong side of all the big matches in his career.
By giving him regular “big feel” bouts, as they did this past week and will do so with the Battle Royal winner, it can create a winning atmosphere around him once again. A thing, despite his winning of the WWE title, that still needs some rectifying.
The point here is that we shouldn’t be upset that the obvious hasn’t happened yet. That, sure, we all fully expect this to end up being face-Orton vs. heel-Wyatt at Mania, and a lot of this just seems like filler, but if we allow ourselves to be open to it, this build can be so much more than just that.
There’s also that outside-the-box chance that whatever the WWE is doing here in delaying what we are certain is inevitable, isn’t by mistake. That, possibly, the WWE has something up its sleeve.
Whether that’s adding Harper or someone else to the WrestleMania main event, or having Orton stay in this cult-follower role, or something else, just because the Internet told us that it is Orton vs. Bray doesn’t make it 100 percent true.
The WWE has been known to change its booking for Manias just because too many people “knew” what was going on.
Anyway, the possibilities here are now endless. Had Orton-Bray already split, there would be only one. This way makes for better picture-box consumption.